Reviews by pat

3 stars
Better alternatives elsewhere

Republic wireless is a unqiue cell service provider. They use an always on app to provide service through a combination of cell and VOIP. They only provide service to certain phone models that are listed on their site.

Cost

The prices are good if you use less than 2GBs of data, 2GBs and unlimited talk and text is $25.

Service

Coverage has been fine since they use brand name cell networks to provide coverage. They route all service through WiFi when possible so you always have good service at hotspots.

Gotchas

Republic tries to hide the magic they do behind the scenes to provide low cost service which has led me to run into some weird cases where I had issues.

  • Phone numbers are classified as landline
    • venmo won’t allow you to register non-mobile number
  • calls are routed through underlying numbers that serve multiple endusers
    • gotten multiple calls that seem meant for other people, unclear if for my number or the underlying number
  • app controls your service
  • You must be on latest version of Android for your device for activation
    • running a version of android that is NEWER than what the manufacturer has released will be rejected, they verify this using build id property

Verdict

Service has worked well the majority of time for low cost. The problem is that other providers have plans for similar cost that don’t require dealing with all the weird gotchas that come with Republic’s service.


2 stars
Useful under certain conditions

From the projects homepage, “A free-as-in-freedom re-implementation of Google’s proprietary Android user space apps and libraries.”

Requirements

You’ll need a ROM with signature spoofing enabled natively or using a patcher like nanodroid-patcher. Magisk is optional but will help pass safetynet. Installation using nanodroid and Magisk is fairly easy.

GMSCore/UnifiedNlp

This is app implements play services and location services. The location services piece allows you to choose your location provider with options to use local or online databases. This saves you from sending your location to google several times a day when NOT using GPS and more when you are. I didn’t run many apps from the google store but in general had few issues even with apps that were supposed to use google services. Although, one app I needed could not get location and the log showed the same error as a bug report from over a year ago.

GsfProxy

This worked well when setup correctly but required that apps be installed after microg or the apps wouldn’t register correctly. GCM still sends data to google as an intermediary, the code running on your device is FOSS to limit your exposure to google. Some apps will probably miss funcationality since all of the messaging apis aren’t implemented. There’s no database telling you what will or won’t work, you have to find out for yourself.

Safetynet

This is a service provided by google to check that your phone has not been modified or applications won’t allow you to use them. Passing safetynet is a constant cat and mouse game with google changing setting so one day you’ll pass and then you won’t. Magisk should help by hiding your modifications but issues still seem to crop up based on the open issues.

Long Term Update

After a year plus of usage, I had a generally positive experience but, had to switch back after needing to use an unsupported app and unifiedNlp stopped working correctly.

Verdict

A much needed app to put google at arms length on your phone. Usage is not for the faint of heart. You’ll want to limit your apps that use google services for the best experience. You’ll also have to be a part time sys admin with backups and updates of the device for when somethings goes wrong.


5 stars
FOSS, Extensible web browser

Fennec is a build of Firefox’s source available through f droid. This allows installing Firefox without having to use the google play store.

Fennec comes with most, if not all, the features of Firefox. The F Droid page says " It’s focused on removing any proprietary bits found in official Mozilla’s builds." I haven’t noticed any missing features though. You can add extensions like u block origin.

Speed seems on par with other browsers.


5 stars
Full featured local location backend

Deja Vu stores the locations of wifi APs and cell towers on your phone. This allows for greater accuracy than using gps alone and allows you to do it without pinging google may times a day like stock android phones with location services turned on do.

This app requires MicroG’s UnifiedNlp to work which requires a ROM with signature spoofing enabled. The easiest way to get this is to use a custom ROM like Lineage with Microg or use NanoDroid with a custom ROM.

Important app for retaining functionality while degoogling your android phone.


2 stars
Strong Frame, Screws up all the little things

Assembly

Printer showed up without critical parts so I had to wait another week for parts to arrive. The assembly guide is online only and is mediocre. I often found myself putting something together then having taking if off and putting it on correctly the second time. They forgot to mention certain parts like the bltouch connector holder. Most of the parts are labeled or obvious but many you have to compare against assembly instructions to figure it out. The printer is not designed for easy assembly. You will have to the frame together and continue working around tightening, loosening, adjusting until you get it square. I also had a lot of issues aligning the lead screws so that I had to remove the x gantry and run the lead screw nuts up and down while adjusting. The instructions had fan mounts for a different fan type so I had to go to the discord to get the proper ones that weren’t exactly right, had to stack 2 for clearance to carriage. The wiring is laid out with 2 pictures of a good looking layout and no detailed instructions. A 3D PDF model is available but not really useful as small parts are missing and it’s hard to manage all the assemblies so you can see what you want. There is support through Discord that typically has 1 or 2 of the main guys that can be very helpful and they are available a lot.

Software

They suggest MatterControl for host/slicing. MatterControl has unfixed bugs on Linux that made it unusable for me. I’ve been using PrintRun for host software and Slic3r PE for slicing which have been working fine.

Design

Design is simplistic and leaves options open for upgrading over time. The frame is rock solid. Control is through a RAMBO 1.3 board with configured Marlin 1.1 supplied. Motors are sized properly to move the heavy axes. The details is where everything goes downhill. The x idler mount is poorly designed and has come loose several times leading to failed prints and failed homing that nearly took out the bed. Bed mounting is not solid, making it an absolute chore to get it level and keep it level. The bltouch mount is not solid as assembled according to the instructions so it will be wildly inconsistent until you properly secure it. The extruder is simple, stiff and is designed to allow a second extruder to fit on the x carriage. The extruder is a liability because the drive gear is off by about 2.5mm from hole in the heatsink meaning the filament is forced sideways into heatsink leading to feed issues from the awkward angle and filament bending. The hotend is a e3d V6 and works great. The printer came with 2 40mm axial fans for print fans which are the absolute wrong choice. The printer needs directed cooling by the nozzle to print properly. The confusing part is that they used to provide blower fans and .stls for fan shrouds that worked fine and are what I ended up using.

Printing

I had tons of printing problems. The core issue is that they supplied axial fans and no base profile. The axial fans would not provide enough cooling or would cause thermal shutdowns by overpowering the bed or hotend heaters. I ended up having to buy blower fans from them and print fan shrouds from stls they provided. You’re supposed to print the fan mounts by somehow macgyvering the fans onto the axis using zipties so you can print the cable chain and fan mounts. The lack of wiring instructions lead to wires coming loose during printing causing further printer shutdowns.

Once everything is properly setup, you can get some really nice prints. The extrusion is very consistent and motion is rock solid.

Verdict

Printer has a lot good components and upgradability, but the missteps on the small things make this more of a project than a printer.


4 stars
The hub for Prusa related fixes and mods

The place to go to find Prusa mods and the people who made them. Everybody is generally helpful and willing to answer questions.

Hub for several mods for the i3 MK3 including the Bear project and skelestruder.


5 stars
Quality PETG Filament

Intro

Veracity filament from Filastruder that is manufactured by Keene Village Plastics and comes with access to average diameter stats on every roll. As of 12/21/18, $25 per kg for masterpool refill. All rolls came vacuum packed with desiccant and came with large zip ties for storage and an extra sticker to put on the spool to identify the material.

Quality

All 4 rolls I’ve inspected were typically 1.74 or 1.75 average which matched the online data for the roll. Looking up the data online was a pain that required you to create an account with KVP and then enter in several different codes, some off a piece of paper in the box and some off the sticker for each spool. No impurities were seen. Masterspool refills would sometimes feed awkwardly off the roll, but not to the point where it caused issues.

Print Settings

Prusa Generic PETG Settings 230C Extruder/85C Bed 1st layer, 240C/90C Bed after 1st layer
Higher temperatures will give parts glossier look.
Recommended print settings 230-260C Extruder/70-100C Bed

Verdict

My go to PETG.


4 stars
Blocks tracking from browser and apps

Opensource ad blocker for Android that filters all outbound requests for ads and tracking using any combination of premade lists, whitelist and blacklist. You can also switch dns providers by selecting from a list or adding one. UI is simple and effective.

Blokada works by using Android’s vpn feature to route all outbound requests through it. This allows it to filter all requests that come from the device.

Long Term Update

After 6 months of usage, the only issue that came up is occasional issues with program staying alive. The app silently died so I didn’t notice for a while. Turning on the Keep alive option under advanced settings seems to fix the issue. This puts up an always on notification to keep Blokada alive. This means you’ll have 2 notifications up almost all the time for this app.

Verdict

This is a must have app for Android


4 stars
Does the job, paltry linux support

Desktop thermal transfer printer with UPS Worldship support. These things are reliable, printed several labels a week for a few years after buying it used.

Linux

Linux support is frustating but completely fixable. The printer will print out of the box with Zebra ZPL print driver. The prints will look poor and barcodes will be terrible and likely unreadable. The fix is to use the CenterOfPixel option when printing :
lpr -P printer -o CenterOfPixel pathtofile.
Prints will look just like they do on Windows. You can add this option as default in the .ppd file in /etc/cups/ppd for this printer by adding

*OpenUI *CenterOfPixel/Center Of Pixel: PickOne
*OrderDependency: 20 AnySetup *CenterOfPixel
*DefaultCenterOfPixel: true
*CenterOfPixel true/true: “”
*CenterOfPixel false/false: “”
*CloseUI: *CenterOfPixel

to the .ppd file.

UPS

Printing UPS labels from a browser using UPS Thermal Printing Script requires the printer is setup with a raw queue. When adding the printer, click on generic driver then raw. Print normally and the script will take care of the rest. Label prints perfectly.

Verdict

Printer is dead reliable, points off for poor linux support.


3 stars
Needs tweaks to reach potential

Monoprice Maker Select V2 is a near direct copy of a Wanhao Duplicator i3. This printer optimizes the i3 design for mass production using steel sections for the frame and electronic housing. Notable for coming nearly assembled and the low price(269.99 as of 11/2018).

Assembly

Involves screwing the steel upright to the x axis and running some cables, quite easy.

Components

The steel frame is quite sturdy, better than Original Prusas on the Z axis. Bed works well at first, but you’ll find the adhesive surface on top wears out rather quickly and entire bed assembly is poorly designed. Spoolholder is basic and too small for spools from Monoprice.

Printing

Tested with Monoprice PLA, printing went well at first with suprisingly good print quality. Over time, printing becomes more frustrating. The bed surface will need to changed frequently if printing regularly. The bed has become less true forcing me to use rafts and only use a 2"x2" square in the middle of the bed to get quality parts. Dimensional accuracy in the X and Y axes seemed to suffer scaling issues where it would undershoot dimensions.

Software/Firmware

I used Cura and Repetier to slice and control the printer. I recall everything working fine once setup. I had to pull printing profiles from the gcode on the sd card that came with the printer. The printer size and connection details had to be filled in to the host software. Acceleration/jerk limits were terrible, the frame would develop z wobble sometimes even though the frame is overbuilt to the point this shouldn’t be an issue.

Tweaks

There are many suggested fixes included for the common bed leveling issue. Locknuts for the thumbscrews, sturdier x axis carrier and replacing the bed with a PEI build surface. Also, a I’ve seen a MOSFET mod recommended as there’s reports the bed heater can overload a connector and possibly start a fire. Reportedly, implementing these fixes will make this a good printer.

Verdict

This is a decent printer for playing with 3D printing at a low price. If you want it to be a reliable machine, you’ll need to tweak many things to get there.

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